College Football's Top Coordinator Hires from 2013

Jeremy Pruitt was a key hire for Florida State.

An underrated part of coaching is hiring the right coordinators. College football head coaches can be strong X’s and O’s leaders, but coordinators are a huge piece of the puzzle and are often the fall guy when things go wrong. And if a coach is more of a program CEO, then coordinators and position coaches become even more important.

If you need proof of how important coordinator changes are, take a look at the national championship game. Florida State was forced to revamp its staff after six assistant coaches departed in the offseason. However, Jimbo Fisher made the right hires, including bringing Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt over from Tuscaloosa to coordinate the defense. Pruitt was a key piece in the Seminoles’ national title run but left for Georgia a week after hoisting the crystal ball. Auburn also had two new coordinators in 2013.

Pruitt and Auburn coordinators Ellis Johnson and Rhett Lashlee are just a small sample of the top hires for 2013. BYU's Robert Anae, Wisconsin's Dave Aranda and LSU's Cam Cameron all made significant contributions to their new team. 

As we look to put a bow on the 2013 season, let’s take a look at some of the top coordinator hires from last year and the impact it made on some of the teams. 

College Football's Top Coordinator Hires from the 2013 Season

Robert Anae, offensive coordinator, BYU
Anae returned to BYU in 2013 after a two-year stint at Arizona. The veteran coach installed an up-tempo attack in Provo, which was a good fit for new quarterback Taysom Hill. The Cougars averaged 493.7 yards per game and scored 30.2 points per contest. Both of those numbers were an improvement from 2012. BYU has room to improve in the red zone and needs to eliminate a few turnovers, but Anae’s return gave the Cougars’ offense an identity and an uptick in production.

Dave Aranda, defensive coordinator, Wisconsin
Aranda followed Gary Andersen from Utah State to Wisconsin and guided the Badgers to a No. 7 national rank in total defense in 2013. Wisconsin's defense allowed just 4.7 yards per play, forced 21 turnovers and allowed just 16.3 points per game. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider the Badgers were transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 approach. Aranda’s defense at Utah State ranked No. 14 nationally in 2012, and his defenses at Hawaii showed marked improvement during his two years with the Warriors. Aranda is an underrated coordinator and will have his work cut out for him this offseason, as the Badgers have several key players leaving.

Related: Grading College Football's First-Year Head Coaches from 2013

Don Brown, defensive coordinator, Boston College
As expected, Brown made a huge difference for Boston College’s defense. After recording only six sacks in 2012, the Eagles picked up 35 in 2013. Brown is known as an aggressive play-caller, which helped Boston College record 20 turnovers and finish third in the ACC in red zone defense. Despite some personnel losses for 2014, the Eagles are in good shape on defense with Brown calling the signals.

Cam Cameron, offensive coordinator, LSU
If Florida State’s Jeremy Pruitt is the top coordinator hire from this season, Cameron is a close second. The veteran coach made a big difference in LSU’s offense in 2013. The Tigers ranked 11th in the SEC in passing in 2012 and averaged only 374.2 yards per game. Cameron helped to develop Zach Mettenberger into an All-SEC candidate at quarterback, while the offense averaged 453.3 yards per game. LSU also averaged six more points per contest in Cameron’s first season.

Geoff Collins, defensive coordinator, Mississippi State
Collins was promoted to call the defensive signals for Mississippi State in 2013. The Georgia native came to Starkville in 2011 and served as an assistant at FIU, UCF and Alabama prior to his stint with the Bulldogs. Collins helped Mississippi State improve in four critical defensive categories (pass, rush, total and scoring), while the Bulldogs ranked fourth in the SEC in third-down defense. Mississippi State also forced 25 turnovers and allowed only 19 plays of 30 yards or more. With a slew of talent returning next year, Collins should have the Bulldogs’ defense performing at an even higher level in 2014.

Bill Cubit, offensive coordinator, Illinois
The Fighting Illini’s offense ranked last in the Big Ten in points and yards per game in 2012. Tim Beckman needed a quick fix, and Cubit proved to be the right answer. Illinois averaged 426.7 yards per game in 2013 (No. 5 in the Big Ten) and scored 30 points seven times last season. Cubit’s worked wonders for quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. This offseason, he gets to develop Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt.

Ryan Day, offensive coordinator, Boston College
There wasn’t much flash to Boston College’s offense, but that’s not a necessity when you have a running back like Andre Williams. Under Day’s direction, the Eagles averaged nearly one more yard per play in 2013 (6.04 to 5.13 in 2012). Boston College was lethal in the red zone, converting 32 of 33 attempts for scores. Day has to develop a new quarterback for next season, but he can lean on a veteran offensive line and running back Myles Willis to lead the way early in the year.

Related: Grading College Football's First-Year Head Coaches from 2013

Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
Replacing Chip Kelly as Oregon’s play-caller was no easy task. But Frost did an admirable job this year. The Ducks led the Pac-12 in total offense and averaged 7.6 yards per play. Oregon’s scoring average was down slightly in 2013 (45.5) from 2012 (49.6). However, the Ducks had more plays of 30 yards or more this season (41) than last year (36). Frost is a rising star in the assistant ranks and will be a head coach in the next few seasons.

David Gibbs, defensive coordinator, Houston
After working as the defensive coordinator at Minnesota (1997-00) and Auburn (2005), Gibbs dropped off the college radar for a few years. He spent time as an assistant with the Chiefs and Texans, along with a one-year stop in the UFL before joining Houston’s staff in 2013. Gibbs made an immediate impact on the Cougars’ defense. Houston finished ninth in the American Athletic Conference in yards allowed, but this unit made up for the yards by forcing a whopping 43 turnovers. The Cougars also finished third in the conference in red zone defense and held opponents to just 21.8 points per game.

Eddie Gran, offensive coordinator, Cincinnati
Gran has a wealth of experience as an assistant, starting his coaching career at Cal Lutheran in 1987. But despite his experience, Gran was never a play-caller until 2013 at Cincinnati. The Bearcats had seven starters returning on offense and didn’t miss a beat under the new coaching staff. Cincinnati led the American Athletic Conference by averaging 472.1 yards per game and nearly matched its scoring average from 2012 (32.1 in 2013 to 32.3 in 2012).

Chuck Heater, defensive coordinator, Marshall
Marshall’s defense was simply awful in 2012. The Thundering Herd ranked last in Conference USA in scoring defense (43.1 ppg) and allowed 456.6 yards per game. But under Heater’s direction, Marshall’s defense showed significant progress. The Thundering Herd allowed just 4.9 yards per play in 2013 and finished fifth in Conference USA in total defense (368.7 ypg). Marshall held its opponents to 22.9 points per game, generated 32 sacks and forced 26 turnovers.

Josh Henson, offensive coordinator, Missouri
Henson had some good fortune on his side, as the Tigers regained the services of running back Henry Josey and had a healthy James Franklin at quarterback this year. But the first-year play-caller pushed the right buttons in 2013. Missouri averaged 25.8 points a game in 2012, but Henson guided this attack to average of 39.1 in 2013. The offense also recorded 23 plays of 40 yards or more and was third in the SEC in red zone efficiency (87.5%).

Ellis Johnson, defensive coordinator, Auburn
Auburn nearly hit rock bottom with its 3-9 record in 2012. But the Tigers quickly rebounded under the direction of Gus Malzahn, who made a splash by hiring Johnson as his defensive coordinator. Johnson was fired after one year as Southern Mississippi’s coach, but the veteran coach is right at home in the coordinator ranks. Auburn’s defense wasn’t elite (12th in the SEC in total yards allowed). However, the Tigers led the SEC in fewest third-down conversions and ranked second in the conference in red zone defense. With more talent coming from the recruiting trail and another year to learn under Johnson, Auburn’s defense should take another step forward on the field in 2014.

Rhett Lashlee, offensive coordinator, Auburn
Gus Malzahn is the main architect and play-caller for Auburn’s offense, but Lashlee is a valuable soundboard for the head coach. Lashlee played under Malzahn in high school and worked with him at Arkansas, Arkansas State and Auburn. 

Related: Grading College Football's First-Year Head Coaches from 2013

Brian Lindgren, offensive coordinator, Colorado
Lindgren played a key role in the development of San Jose State quarterback David Fales and has already made an impact in one season at Colorado. The Buffaloes ranked last in the conference in total offense but improved by averaging 67.6 more yards per game than they did in 2012. With a full offseason to work with quarterback Sefo Liufau, Colorado’s offense should take another step forward in 2014.

Doug Meacham, offensive coordinator, Houston
Meacham’s stay in Houston lasted only one year, but he made an impact on the Cougars’ offense. After starting quarterback David Piland was forced to retire, the offense turned to true freshman John O’Korn. Behind Meacham’s play-calling, Houston still managed to average 419.5 yards per game (5.7 yards per play) and 33.2 points per contest. Meacham left for TCU before the bowl game, and coach Tony Levine promoted Travis Bush to call the plays for the Cougars in 2014.

Todd Orlando, defensive coordinator, Utah State
Orlando inherited seven starters from a unit that allowed only 15.4 points a game in 2012, and this unit didn’t miss a beat with a new play-caller. Utah State led the Mountain West in total defense and allowed only 4.6 yards per play. The Aggies generated 34 sacks, 30 turnovers and allowed just 17.1 points per game.

Clancy Pendergast, defensive coordinator, USC
Even though Pendergast is searching for a new job for 2014, his work with USC should not be overlooked. After spending three years at California, Pendergast had a solid grasp on offenses in the Pac-12, which helped the Trojans’ defense improve from No. 7 in the conference to No. 1 in fewest yards allowed. USC held opponents to just 21.2 points per game and led the way in red zone defense in the Pac-12.

Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator, Florida State
Pruitt’s debut at Florida State was a smashing success. In his first year as a defensive coordinator on the collegiate level, Pruitt had to replace seven starters from a unit that allowed just 254.1 yards per game in 2012. The Seminoles’ defense was among the best nationally once again despite the departed players, as Pruitt guided this unit to a No. 1 rank in fewest points allowed per game (12.1). Florida State also limited opponents to just 4.09 yards per play. Pruitt was hired away from Tallahassee to coordinate Georgia’s defense in 2014. 

Ted Roof, defensive coordinator, Georgia Tech
Roof was hired away from Penn State to coordinate the Yellow Jackets’ defense and his first year was an improvement from Georgia Tech’s 2012 performance. The Yellow Jackets held opponents to 5.5 yards per play after allowing 5.7 last year. Georgia Tech also finished second in the ACC against the run and held opponents to just 22.8 points per game. Roof didn’t have a dynamic impact on the defense, but there was noticeable improvement in 2013.

Timm Rosenbach, offensive coordinator, UNLV
UNLV is Rosenbach’s fourth career stop as an offensive coordinator. Prior to joining Hauck’s staff in Las Vegas, he worked as the play-caller at Montana, New Mexico State and Eastern Washington. Rosenbach also has five years of experience from a stint as an assistant at Washington State. UNLV’s offense made noticeable improvement across the board in 2014. The Rebels averaged 43.9 more yards and eight points per game in 2013 than they did in 2012. Rosenbach’s work with quarterback Caleb Herring was a big reason why UNLV made a bowl trip in 2013.

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